No Plague Near Your Tent: Reading Psalm 91 During a Global Pandemic

Today I’m sharing from Core Christianity.

No Plague Near Your Tent: Reading Psalm 91 During a Global Pandemic

By William R. Osborne 

It is not often in human history that words like plague and pestilence become household terminology, but here we are. As strange as these words feel on our tongues, they are not as uncommon in the Bible. For example, Psalm 91 speaks directly to the notion of plague or pestilence three times, boldly claiming, “For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence” (v. 3), “You will not fear . . . the pestilence that stalks in darkness” (v. 6), and finally, “No evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent” (v. 10). While we as Christians glory in the declarations of the psalm, we can’t help but notice the current “plague” creeping ever closer to our neighborhoods and homes. Does Psalm 91 make promises that are not being fulfilled? How do we read Psalm 91 during a global pandemic?

Images of Comfort

While the original setting that gave rise to this psalm eludes us, the first-person statement in v. 2 reveals that the author speaks these words of hope and comfort as one who has personally experienced refuge and security by trusting in God in the midst of fearful circumstances. Indeed, Psalm 91 opens with a beautiful picture of God’s people dwelling in the shelter and shadow of the Lord. We are thrust into a metaphorical world where God is a refuge, God is a fortress, God’s faithfulness is a shield, and God even has wings that provide security.

The important thing to remember here is that the psalmist is creating figurative relationships between God and the created world that forge a new reality for the fearful. These creative images draw us out of our fear-entrenched perceptions into a new world that redefines our source of protection and peace. Verse 3 plays into this figurative imagery by likening us to a bird that will escape the net of the “fowler,” a term used to describe a bird-catcher in ancient times. In a parallel line, we are told “he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence.” Just as the first line of this verse should be understood as figurative language communicating a general picture of deliverance, so should the second.

The mention of pestilence in v. 6 is also imbedded in a poetic structure that leads us away from forcing the language into a straightforward reading. Verses 5 and 6 are in a parallel structure that looks like this:

A – You will not fear the terror of the night,

B – nor the arrow that flies by day

A’ – nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

B’ – nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

The intentional parallel between night and day in v. 5 is picked up and developed in v. 6 with the ideas of darkness and noonday. Poetically, phrases like “night and day” or “dark and light” are called merisms. A merism is when an author poetically uses opposite terms to figuratively communicate a total or complete concept. Consequently, like the reference in v. 3, the language of v. 6 should not be stripped of its poetic and figurative quality.

Read the rest here.

Search for One

Search for One

By Pat Knight

Mink do not usually expose themselves to humans, especially during daylight hours. One splendid, warm, summer day there were seven of us engaged in activities near the lake. While our three young grandsons were captivated fishing, the adults glimpsed a sleek, black, lithe creature slithering its way around the children’s sandal-clad feet on the dock. Our son commanded his boys to stand motionless, using only their eyes to observe the bizarre oddity of nature. 

The wet, glistening mink investigated the boy’s footgear and wet socks draped on a rock to dry. The mink’s nose never stopped sniffing, as it wove its body among every human foot firmly planted on the dock. Its conical snout, incessantly wriggling, was on a mission. What was bothering the mink so much that it would voluntarily wander among the enemy? We talked quietly. Then the mink slinked away as quickly as it had appeared. Our activity resumed in slow motion. The boys continued to fish, as they cast a wary eye in the direction of the intruder, wondering if it would return.

Soon, mother mink emerged, this time on a new quest. She had previously disappeared into the rocks near the shoreline, to the left of the dock, probably the location of her den. Now, with a limp kit helplessly dangling from her mouth, mama mink hastily scampered across the dock, without stopping to socialize, and plunged into the water, bound for the cribwork on the opposite side of the dock. There she remained with her kit, in an area her instincts told her would be much safer than their last home, far out of range of human activity. We weren’t privileged to see the mother mink or her kit again. Their short performance was astonishing, albeit, entertaining.

Jesus told a parable to His disciples: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:3-7).

Jesus taught truths using familiar objects his audience could understand. One hundred sheep comprised a typical modest flock for a shepherd of that day. Shepherds often worked in teams, so it would not be irresponsible for one shepherd to leave ninety-nine sheep safely in the open field for his companions to oversee. The shepherds would not take the remainder of their herd home until the lost lamb was found.

Throughout Scripture, Jesus is portrayed as the Good Shepherd; believers are His individual sheep or His collective flock. Sheep are without direction in life. They must be led to good grazing grounds and protected from danger. They are passive animals, unequipped to find their own food or to fight predators. A good shepherd supplies his sheep’s needs.

The picture we see in Jesus’ parable is one of the Good Shepherd protecting His own. He was willing to leave His glorious throne in heaven to search for the one who is lost. When that person is found, Jesus places His beloved on His shoulders—the place of strength—and rejoins the lost with the rest of His flock. Jesus always rejoices when His people turn to Him for salvation, safety, and guidance throughout life. 

The mother mink protected her one kit, going to great lengths and endangering her life by carrying her offspring past the enemy to safety. If need be, she was willing to fight fiercely for the security of her young. Though the scene of the kit dangling from its mother’s mouth looked pathetic to us, the instinctive submission and obedience of the kit saved its life. Though Jesus handles us much more gently, He requires our posture to be one of complete trust and reliance upon His care, submitting to His will for our lives. “‘I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down,’ declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak … I will shepherd the flock with justice’” (Ezekiel 34:15-16).

When confronting danger, are we willing to put our lives in the hands of the Great Shepherd, who incessantly rescues His wayward children from harm, one individual life at a time? Trust Jesus explicitly, as He readily enfolds you beneath His protective arms and leads you to safety. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Jesus went further than risking His life for our protection. He came to earth with the express goal to die a heinous death of crucifixion: His one perfect life given for mankind, to redeem us from our sins, and to carry us on His shoulders to refuge in heaven for eternity.

“Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’” (John 10:11). Jesus’ mission on earth was unselfish. He sacrificed His pure, unblemished life to save His sinful children, one-by-one. The Good Shepherd came to secure eternal victory for His wayward ones. Submit to Him, for His plans are always perfect.

Sunday Praise and Worship: My Hope is in You

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If you’ve been around my blog for very long, you know that I live every single day with several chronic pain illnesses. Some of you may be struggling with health issues too. Or they may be other circumstances that cause concern, anxiety and maybe even fear. Perhaps you pray to be delivered from your trial or circumstances, but day after day nothing changes. In fact, things may even get worse.

Beloved, hang in there!

Remember that our ultimate Hope is in our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ and no one or nothing else. The song “My Hope is in You” sung by Aaron Shust often runs through my mind, especially when I’m struggling with life in my little corner of the world. This section of the lyrics always soothes me:

I will wait on You
You are my refuge
I will wait on You
You are my refuge

My hope is in You, Lord, all the day long
I won’t be shaken by drought or storm
My hope is in You, Lord
All the day long I won’t be shaken by drought or storm

As you listen to this song, ponder the words of David as he sang his trust and hope in God:

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah.

—Psalm 62:5-8

 
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 If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

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The LORD is our stronghold

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Nahum 1

An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.

God’s Wrath Against Nineveh

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
    the Lord is avenging and wrathful;
the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries
    and keeps wrath for his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
    and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
    and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
    he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither;
    the bloom of Lebanon withers.
The mountains quake before him;
    the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
    the world and all who dwell in it.

Who can stand before his indignation?
    Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
    and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.
The Lord is good,
    a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him.
    But with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries,[a]
    and will pursue his enemies into darkness.
What do you plot against the Lord?
    He will make a complete end;
    trouble will not rise up a second time.
10 For they are like entangled thorns,
    like drunkards as they drink;
    they are consumed like stubble fully dried.
11 From you came one
    who plotted evil against the Lord,
    a worthless counselor.

12 Thus says the Lord,
“Though they are at full strength and many,
    they will be cut down and pass away.
Though I have afflicted you,
    I will afflict you no more.
13 And now I will break his yoke from off you
    and will burst your bonds apart.”

14 The Lord has given commandment about you:
    “No more shall your name be perpetuated;
from the house of your gods I will cut off
    the carved image and the metal image.
I will make your grave, for you are vile.”

15 [b] Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him
    who brings good news,
    who publishes peace!
Keep your feasts, O Judah;
    fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the worthless pass through you;
    he is utterly cut off.


Footnotes:

a. Nahum 1:8 Hebrew of her place

b. Nahum 1:15 Ch 2:1 in Hebrew

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Thankful for my Refuge and my Fortress

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Psalm 91

New International Version (NIV)

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

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AnnaSmile…..

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